Thirty generations in fifteen chapters: in the Book of Ether, Moroni provides a sweeping history of the rise and fall of a civilization.
At first glance, the book appears to be the story of the Jaredite people from the perspective of their kings. But upon closer consideration, it becomes clear that the narrative follows a family—one line of Ether’s ancestry—many of whom reigned as kings, but not all.
Moroni gives us the structure of the book near the beginning of the first chapter. He lists Ether’s ancestors through thirty generations, back to Jared, who together with his brother founded their civilization. Thereafter, Moroni tells us the story of each of these individuals, concluding with Ether, who witnessed the destruction of his people.
Here is a list of those individuals, with a brief description of what we know about them and some lessons I have learned from some of them:
|Jared||Ether 1:32-43, 2:1, 13, 6:1-29||Followed the Lord’s guidance to lead his family, his brother’s family, and several other families to the promised land.||Pray for specific blessings, and remember that answers won’t come all at once.|
|Orihah||Ether 1:32, 6:27-30, 7:1-2||He was willing to be king when none of his brothers & cousins would. He walked humbly before the Lord. Had 23 sons and 8 daughters.||Be circumspect about taking an assignment that others refuse.|
|Kib||Ether 1:31-32, 7:3-10||His son Corihor rebelled against him, but another son, Shule, rescued him from captivity.|
|Shule||Ether 1:30-31, 7:7-27||Rescued his father from captivity. Forgave his brother Corihor. Lost the kingdom to Corihor’s son, Noah, but Shule’s sons assassinated Noah and rescued Shule. Beat Noah’s son Cohor in a civil war and reunited the kingdom. Defended the prophets.||Gratitude leads to wiser decisions.|
|Omer||Ether 1:29-30, 8:1-11, 9:1-3, 12-15||Overthrown by his son Jared with the help of a man named Akish. Rescued by other sons. Escaped an assassination attempt. Became king again when his enemies destroyed one another.|
|Emer||Ether 1:28-29, 9:14-22||Lived in prosperity. Executed judgment in righteousness. Saw the Son of Righteousness. Died in peace.||Adversity can bring us closer to God.|
|Coriantum||Ether 1:27-28, 9:23-24||Lived in prosperity. Had no children until he was old.|
|Com||Ether 1:26-27, 9:25-27||Dethroned and killed by his son, Heth.|
|Heth||Ether 1:25-26, 9:25-35, 10:1||Embraced the “secret plans of old.” Dethroned and murdered his father. Persecuted the prophets. The Lord sent poisonous snakes and a famine. Heth died in the famine.||Adversity can motivate us to repent.|
|Shez||Ether 1:24-25, 10:1-4||Built up a righteous kingdom. His son (also named Shez) rebelled but was killed by a robber.|
|Riplakish||Ether 1:23-24, 10:4-8||Oppressed the people with heavy taxes and imprisonment. The people rose up in rebellion. He was killed and his descendants were banished.||Oppressive leadership is not sustainable.|
|Morianton||Ether 1:22-23, 10:9-13||Regained power by force, but won the hearts of the people by easing their burdens. Prospered but did not obey the commandments of God.||Apply the same discipline to your personal decisions that you bring to your public ones.|
|Kim||Ether 1:21-22, 10:13-14||Not righteous. Dethroned by his brother and lived in captivity.|
|Levi||Ether 1:20-21, 10:14-16||Obtained the kingdom again after the death of his father. Ruled in righteousness.|
|Corom||Ether 1:19-20, 10:16-17||Was righteous and had many children.|
|Kish||Ether 1:18-19, 10:17-18||Reigned and died (That’s all we know.)|
|Lib||Ether 1:17-18, 10:18-29||Presided in a time of prosperity. “Never could be a people more blessed than were they.”||Be grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given.|
|Hearthom||Ether 1:16-17, 10:29-31||Lost the kingdom and lived in captivity.|
|Heth||Ether 1:16, 10:31||Lived in captivity.|
|Aaron||Ether 1:15-16, 10:31||Lived in captivity.|
|Amnigaddah||Ether 1:14-15, 10:31||Lived in captivity.|
|Coriantum||Ether 1:13-14, 10:31||Lived in captivity.|
|Com||Ether 1:12-13, 10:31-34, 11:1-4||Regained power over the kingdom. Fought against the robbers in the land, but did not prevail. Protected the prophets and was blessed.||Leaders should defend those who can’t defend themselves.|
|Shiblom (or Shiblon)||Ether 1:11-12, 11:4-9||His brother rebelled against him. There were wars and contentions, famines and pestilences. He was killed.|
|Seth||Ether 1:10-11, 11:9||Lived in captivity.|
|Ahah||Ether 1:9-10, 11:10||Regained power. Caused “the shedding of much blood.” Died young.|
|Ethem||Ether 1:8-9, 11:11-14||Ruled in wickedness. His people rejected the prophets, who withdrew.|
|Moron||Ether 1:7-8, 11:14-18||Lost half the kingdom, regained it, then lost the entire kingdom and lived in captivity.|
|Coriantor||Ether 1:6-7, 11:18-23||Lived in captivity. Many prophets came but were rejected by the people.|
|Ether||Ether 1:6, 11:23, 12:1-3, 13:13-14, 20-22, 15:12-13, 33-34||Was a prophet. Taught the people and didn’t try to take the kingdom from Coriantumr. Hid from the king and made a record of his people. Saw their destruction.||Don’t be neutral. Speak up when something isn’t right.|
Why tell the story of so many generations of a family in such rapid succession? Here are a few thoughts:
- Recognizing the cross-generational impact of decisions can broaden our perspective. Orihah reigned in righteousness and was blessed, but because he agreed to be king and establish a monarchy, many of his descendants lived in captivity.
- Sustainable leadership can only be assessed across a long time horizon. Riplakish must have seemed very powerful in the short run, until his people decided they had had enough and rose up in rebellion.
- Seizing power by force or by deception is not a good strategy. As Jared (Omer’s son) and Akish learned, once you’ve opened that door, other people will follow, and you will never be safe.
- Adversity can engender humility and sensitivity. Shule, the second Com, and Ether all were wiser and kinder because of having been raised in captivity.
Today, I will remember the lessons I’ve learned from the Jaredites. I will think about the long-term consequences of my decisions. I will strive to lead in a way that can be sustained over time. And I will learn from the adversity I experience and allow it to humble me and make me more sensitive.